Ice or Heat? Which is Better?
A common question I get as a chiropractor is whether you should be using ice or heat to help decrease pain. This is fairly common due to the accessibility and affordability of ice and heat modalities. These are great at home treatments to use after getting done with doing exercises, massage, chiropractic care, or acupuncture.
To understand when it is better to use ice or heat we need to understand what they do. Ice is meant to decrease pain receptor activity to numb the pain and to also decrease blood flow to the area causing vasoconstriction. On the other hand heat is meant to decrease tightness of muscles by the increase the elasticity of muscles and it also increases blood flow to the area. Decrease blood flow will help decrease inflammation of the area while increasing blood flow will help increase white blood cell activity in the area.
Based on this it is usually better to use ice in the acute phase of an injury (1-3 days after an injury). This is to decrease inflammation or swelling of the area and also to decrease the pain. Now with a more chronic injury or chronic phase of pain (1 month+) it is important to help increase the blood flow of the area and increase muscle/joint movement of the area. Increase the movement will help decrease joint and muscle pain.
Now even though this is recommended I believe that if you like using ice more use ice even in the chronic phase. If you like using heat more use heat in the acute phase of injury.
When using ice and heat only use for 15-20 minutes at a time. Then take a break for about an hour or 2 before reapplying. I hope this helps whether you are in Roseville, Rocklin, Granite Bay, Citrus Heights, Sacramento area, or anywhere in the world.
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